DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A powerful winter storm dumped several inches of snow on a swath of the nation’s midsection on Friday, making roads icy and snarling traffic by causing fender benders and forcing road closures.

In Minnesota, Interstate 94 between Alexandria and the North Dakota border closed as gusty winds and blowing snow reduced visibilities.

Heavy snow fell in parts of Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas and Minnesota as the storm swept north over the region.

In Iowa, freezing rain and sleet made for hazardous travel early in the day with numerous accidents being reported. Most were minor fender benders as motorists slid off the road after hitting an icy patch.

“We’re seeing a lot of sliders,” said Jessica Lown, a spokeswoman for the Iowa State Patrol.

In Nebraska, howling wind and blowing snow reduced visibilities to a quarter of a mile in much of the state’s panhandle. Blizzard conditions were reported in western parts of the state as winds gusted to 46 mph in some areas.

The storm also ushered in bitter cold as temperatures dipped into the single digits across much of the region with wind chills as low as 30 below.

The change in temperature was most stark in Iowa, where the plummeting temperatures came a day after some areas, such as Des Moines, topped 60 degrees.

By midday Friday the temperature in Des Moines was in the 20s and was expected to fall into the single digits by evening, said Jacob Beitlich, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Des Moines.

“There will be a good 15-20 degree drop later in the afternoon,” Beitlich said.

Snowfall amounts ranged from 3-5 inches in western Kansas to an expected 9 inches in Minnesota and North Dakota by Saturday morning.

In Ellis County, Kan., emergency management coordinator Bill Ring urged motorists to carry emergency kits with a flashlight, blankets, food, water and a cell phone and charger. In parts of Nebraska, motorists should “just stay put,” weather service meteorologist Steve Rubin said.

Besides I-94, U.S. Highway 10 between Moorehead and Detroit Lakes, Minn., was also closed because of the storm, as was Highway 210 from Fergus Falls to the North Dakota border.

The storm also forced travelers to flock to shelters along Interstate 15 in Montana Thursday night because of blizzard conditions. More than 50 people registered at a shelter at the University of Montana-Western Campus, where a line formed out the door, the American Red Cross of Montana said.

More than 40 stranded travelers were at a second shelter opened by the Lima Volunteer Fire Department.

A truck stop in Summit, S.D., was turned into a makeshift shelter for some wrestling fans from southwestern Minnesota who had hoped to beat the weather home from a wrestling tournament in Fargo, N.D. They had to stay overnight at the truck stop after taking an exit off Interstate 29 in Summit only to find the exit blocked.

The fan caravan was able to get back on the road Friday.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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